Dr. Patricia A. Gentile’s Presidential Inaugural Address at NSCC

Thank you everyone for your very kind and gracious words of welcome and support. I feel completely enveloped in wonderful encouragement, and am humbled and moved by your faith and belief in me.

It is partnerships with all of you and the groups that you represent that will move North Shore Community College effectively forward into its next 50 years.

My heartfelt thanks to my son Chris and my former student and friend Kathy….I’m honored by your thoughtfulness and love and am fortunate to have you both in my life.

I’m also very grateful to my loving and patient husband, George Ditzel, all my family members and friends who have flown in from Texas, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to be with me today.  I love you guys!

And, thank you to everyone who took time out of their very busy lives to come and celebrate with us the 50 years of passion and service given by those who created North Shore Community College and made it the excellent caring, effective, academic institution it is today.

 Special thanks to President Emeriti Dr. George Traicoff and Dr. Wayne Burton.  Your foresight and direction made a difference to hundreds of thousands of North Shore residents, and I am fortunate to follow in your leadership.

We also have the North Shore legislative delegation here today, school superintendents from our K-12 partners, business and community leaders, and area Mayors and other elected officials. I am also honored that my colleague college presidents representing more than 20 institutions of higher education have come to share this occasion with us.

Thank you for your ongoing support of this college and the guidance you will give me as we work together in the future.

Most of all, thank you to the quarter of a million people over the past 50 years who have entrusted their dream of a college education to us, and graced North Shore with their energy, talents, ideas, and intellect.

Our alumni have made North Shore Community College a source of hope and pride for the last half century.  Our current and future students will surely follow their lead over the next 5 decades.

As many of you know, I am a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of the USA…so I was pleased to have Girl Scouts from a city of Lynn Brownie troop lead today’s opening flag ceremony.

As Chris noted, my children grew through scouting and my grandson Will continues the proud tradition as a Bear Cub in Swampscott Pack 55.

For me, the Girl Scout Promise and Law are guiding principles on how I’ve chosen to live my life.

“On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout law.” That law includes a profound statement: “I will do my best to make the world a better place.”

Making the world a better place –

This is what I have striven to do my whole life and what has led me from teaching, to nonprofit leadership, to community and political activism and finally full circle to higher education.  As my son also noted, I am a passionate believer in the transformative power of education.

Making the world a better place –

There is a synergy between my commitment to the Girl Scout law and what North Shore Community College is all about.

Becoming President of North Shore Community College is the culmination of all my experiences and passion for education, equality for all, civic engagement, activism and democratic principles…. and I am here so that I can leave this part of the world a better place by helping to improve the lives of our students and the communities we share.

Making the world a better place –

North Shore Community College has a long and rich history of transforming lives – providing the opportunity to make life better through affordable, excellent public higher education and responsible public stewardship.

Our people and our programs are testament to a deep and personal commitment to our students – a philosophy of education that goes beyond the classroom, the lab, and the clinic – and profoundly changes lives on a daily basis.

We meet I – you-n, a Sudanese “Lost Boy,” and we help a young war refugee reach his dream of building health clinics in his homeland, making his world a better place.

We welcome Ryan, a high school drop-out and Iraq war veteran, and we provide him with the support he needs to succeed and to help his brother and sister veterans.

We provide Luisa with the language skills and education she needs to overcome challenges of poverty and disability.

We help Jose to move from abject poverty in rural El Salvador to North Shore Community College, University of Massachusetts Boston and on to graduate school at Harvard University.

We give Kevin what he calls the welcoming gateway to education and a distinguished career after North Shore Community College as a criminal defense attorney.

We salute Dawn’s courageous return to school as an adult student – and a new professional life – as she discovers a love for learning she never realized she had.

Making the world a better place –

We work daily with faith in education, hope in opportunity, and a willingness to reclaim the future for the public good.

But we know the next 50 years will be very different. The future will require new ways of implementing the business of higher education,

New ways of delivering rigorous and relevant academic programs,

New methods to provide students the individualized support needed to be successful in achieving their education goals, and

New strategies to find and allocate the resources necessary to keep the doors open to all who can benefit.

Times demand that we figure out how best to utilize scarce resources to serve the hundreds of thousands who will seek us out in the next half century.

Continued investment in public higher education from public and private sources is simply critical to the economic future of the North Shore and the quality of life for area residents.

We need to ensure that future students – our children, our grandchildren and their children – are given the same opportunity for local, affordable, excellent and transformative higher education so they, too, can make their community and world a better place.

It will take as much innovation, hard work, and strong leadership to ensure that North Shore and our sister colleges thrive in the future as it took to build these colleges in the past. Perhaps even more!

No higher education institution today can fulfill its broad mission with its own scarce resources.  Unlike trying a thousand points of light with small innovative pilots, we must pool our time, talents and treasures to focus a spotlight on large scale innovation.

That takes a collaborative effort to plan and implement.

As I begin my presidency at North Shore Community College, it is clear to me that the only way to make life better for those we serve is to effectively and efficiently meet our current and future challenges through collaborative innovation.

Let me give you an example that we are launching right here on our Lynn campus.

Upon arriving at North Shore Community College I received a lot of feedback from the Lynn community that North Shore – the only institution of higher education in this great city – needed to leverage its resources for workforce development to help further the economic development of the city and region.

After collecting our 47 points of lights – creative, but fairly disconnected projects we had created in Lynn, I knew our commitment to the City was deep and broad, but not of a scale to truly make a difference.

I also knew there were others with their own disconnected points of light trying to make the world of Lynn a better place.

What if we came together and merged those points of light into a new and brilliant spotlight?

So that is what we did.

Calling together leadership in education, the city, and community, we joined formally together to create a collaborative innovation.

We’ve named it the CommUniverCity at Lynn – spelled with a C-i-t-y – to convey the breadth of community collaboration and education sector support needed to drive systemic change.

The CommUniverCity at Lynn is a model of “engaged institutions” :

• the City of Lynn,

• Salem State University,

•  the Lynn school district,

 •the Lynn Community Health Center,

• the North Shore Workforce Investment Board

along with North Shore Community College – working in tandem to build seamless pathways in public education from pre-K all the way through to gainful employment.   With the support and leadership of Senator Thomas McGee, our collaborative innovation arises from best practices writ large and includes a progression of access and opportunity from the high school diploma to post-secondary education and training.

Business partnerships will help us focus on labor demand and lay the groundwork for entering into and advancing in the careers of individual choice and employer need.

Making the world a better place –

for individuals, for families, for business and industry, and for the quality of life in our communities –

with a plan that goes beyond interagency partnerships to a place of depth and scope that transforms people and systems.

In the CommUniverCity at Lynn, North Shore Community College has pledged:

•           To enhance its involvement in the K-12 system to better prepare Lynn students for success in college;

•           To build pathways for more students through Early College and Dual Enrollment strategies in order to provide lower income high school students who display academic promise with a rigorous and realistic college experience;

•           To move students effectively to associate degree graduation and transfer on to their bachelor or into the labor market well prepared to continue their success, and

•           To help adult worker learners achieve the fundamental skills and credentials needed to enter or re-enter the labor market of today and tomorrow in self-sustaining career paths, and to build the capacity to advance in those chosen fields.

The collaborative, I believe, will create efficiencies that will enhance an affordable education pathway – one that doesn’t burden students with unreasonably high loans that hamper their ability to raise themselves and their families to a better quality of life.

The CommUniverCity at Lynn model will also infuse civic education and engagement through service learning, a workforce development program that enhances experiential learning, and a community network that adds value to outside of the classroom engagement.

Will such collaborative innovation work? Building adaptive capacity will challenge us to forge the types of relationships that generate change. But the fun, of course, will be in the details – and we will begin to do that planning work this year.

 If we keep our eyes on our ultimate purpose – a student successfully achieving his or her educational goal through excellent, affordable higher education credential and degree programs that are tied to real future-oriented careers –

thinking globally, learning locally, prospering together

– then, we will have made our community and world a better place.

My mentor, former employer, and friend, Marian Wright Edelman of The Children’s Defense Fund, wisely stated:  “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”

I pledge to heed her inspiring words.

As president of North Shore Community College, I promise every resident of the North Shore the opportunity to transform their lives through education,

the ability to hope in the future of a better tomorrow,

and the capacity to make our world a better place.

Let’s start together – Let’s start our next 50 years today!

Thank you!

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